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Uganda has suffered much like the rest of Africa, through mass genocide and the AIDs pandemic almost a whole generation was eradicated. It is thought over 300,000 were wiped out under Idi Amin’s regime and just a few years later, AIDs had taken a firm hold of the nation, with over 30% of the population succumbing to this deadly degenerative disease.
But despite this, their economy grew in the 90s and helped to make them one of Africa’s fastest growing nations. By 2008 they had taken massive steps in the fight against AIDs, reducing it to 6.4% of the population.
I met with Emily Collins to reminisce about her time in Uganda, helping out within various communities in and around Jinja. Despite such adverse conditions she found that the peoples’ outlook was always positive and incredibly welcoming.
Such growth hasn’t come unassisted, with many charities playing a crucial role, it relies on the generosity of time and money from a wealth of people. I met with Emily Collins on a rainy day, it couldn’t have been further from the hot days she encountered on her three month trip to Uganda. Having been a childhood dream to go to Africa, experiencing the culture and being able to make a positive impact within a community seemed like the perfect way to experience the true Uganda.
Mission Direct support locally led projects among the world’s poorest people and helped organise Emily and the five other new recruits’ trip. They were sent to live with a pastor and his wife in Jinja, to give a helping hand with local projects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each morning they set off, faced with a new challenge. With there only being eight physicians per 100,000 persons in the early 2000s the task of immunising those most susceptible is delegated to those less qualified. One nurse informed the team where to plunge the needles and then they were let loose to help immunise the local babies. Inevitably the protective parents were wary but with infant mortality rate being at 79 per 1,000 in 2005 they have no choice but to accept, but in doing so they are helping to making leaps and bounds in combating malaria and AIDs. Another duty was to help with the expectant mothers, and after a very short briefing from the paediatric nurse, they were listening to the tiny heart beats and doing all their checkups.
There are now large numbers of AIDs carriers living in segregated communities to help prevent this disease from ever returning to the same prevalence it once had. Emily and the group ventured into these villages to help the residents with the manual labour that they, because of their condition cannot do.
From preparing the land for crops to sustain a household, to building an extension due to an uninvited termite mound cropping up inside the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key to escaping poverty is education. Working in a local school was also on the agenda for Emily and the team. She said the teaching methods focused mainly on repetition and memorisation. Outdated teaching and disciplining methods may well be archaic but this is the only option for many of the children wishing to progress and get out from the slums. For a period the school was shut down meaning the forty boarding students needed new lodgings, so the pastor (also the owner of the school) took them in. Emily gave up her mattress as did her fellow volunteers at the house, all of a sudden it became rather crowded. Talking to Emily she speaks very fondly of all of the children and it was clear to see that because of their warm personalities they had an instant rapport.

These children are the lucky ones, being able to afford to go to school even if it is just one term at a time. Most are living with their grandparents due to their parents having been wiped out by disease.
There are many children who have no remaining family so end up living in child headed homes. These small huts are run by the eldest child usually around twelve years old but are visited regularly by charity workers.
Being constantly thrown in at the deep end Emily quickly learnt that in Uganda you have to be easy going and ready to go with the flow.

When meeting with friends, no-one had a watch or went by a clock, so Emily quickly found that cafes made the best meeting place or you could end up waiting hours!
She recalled the friendly atmosphere, with everyone keen to speak to you and make a new friend. Often invited over to someone’s house, they deemed it an honour to have her as their guest.
Uganda has overcome many adversities and in recent years, has transformed into a politically stable country with a rapidly growing economy. It’s clear to see that despite all of the afflictions that have ravaged the country there is a positive outlook that is infectious and fills those who experience it, with a warmth they will never forget.